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Debbie Lesko wins AZ08 primary, Brenden Dilley finishes 11th

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The wide-open Republican primary race to replace Trent Franks included twelve candidates. Of those 12, Debbie Lesko comes out on top winning by double digits. Second and third place respectively was Steve Montenegro (24.19%) and Phil Lovas (23.28%). Debbie Lesko clinched the nomination with 35.98% of the vote. Debbie Lesko will move on to face Hiral Tipirneni in April. Tipirneni defeated her primary opponent by 6100 votes to clinch her nomination. Voter turnout was 22%; which was higher than expectations.

Race Background

This wide-open race had conservatives endorsing opposing candidates. Ted Cruz endorsed and through his PACs supported Steve Montenegro who has since turned out to have sex scandals of his own. He was also endorsed by Joe Arpaio. Meanwhile, members of the Freedom Caucus endorsed Debie Lesko. She also received backing from multiple local influences. On social media, the candidate of choice was “life coach” Brenden Dilley who had highly amplified Trump rhetoric, like a Paul Nehlen without the Jew-hating. He had an army of Twitter followers some rather influential like Bill Mitchell and Scott Presler help create a facade of traction. In the end, the most formidable and well-liked candidate came out victorious.

General Election

The Blue Wave won’t take place in Arizona’s 8th, at least not without a serious scandal. Debbie Lesko has a campaign finance scandal going on, but it’s not significant enough to deter voters thus far. More votes were cast for Lesko than the Democrat’s champion, Hiral Tipirneni.

Social Media Candidates

It’s quite remarkable, the level of devotion social media candidates have whether or not it has any basis in the district they are running for. Brenden Dilley created a cult following on Twitter only to receive a pitiful 633 votes, an 11th place finish. Ever since 2016, social media candidates are emerging. Trump proved that Twitter is a valuable platform that can make a campaign. Brenden Dilley is the first true social media candidate to be tested this election year. And it turns out, he was more than likely running a scam.

This is a risk with social media candidates. On the Democrat side, the Emoji Loving Manning thinks he can take on Ben Cardin for the Senate in Maryland. This is less perilous feat than Brenden Dilley in a wide-open race. We’ll have to see how much tweets can outweigh the cash that Cardin sits on. In foresight, the most formidable is Austin Petersen in Missouri. During the 2016 primary season, he ran as a Libertarian only to lose out to the Gary Johnson. But he built a following and used that to launch a Senate campaign. The rise of social media candidates presents is high risk, high reward for the grassroots.

Race Rating: Safe Republican

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South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

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South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president on Wednesday, edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the U.S., Britain and other European nations.

The White House and its European partners had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the policing organization, saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpol’s red notice system to go after political opponents and fugitive dissidents.

Kim’s win means he secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at Interpol’s general assembly in Dubai on Wednesday. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China as part of a wide anti-corruption sweep there.

Kim, a police official in South Korea, was serving as interim president after Meng’s departure from the post and was senior vice president at Interpol.

Most of Interpol’s 194 member-countries attended the organization’s annual assembly this year, which was held in an opulent Dubai hotel along the Persian Gulf coast.

Interpol was facing a pivotal moment in its history as members decided whether to hand its presidency to Prokopchuk or Kim, who were the only two candidates vying for the post.

Based in the French city of Lyon, Interpol is best known for issuing “red notices” that identify a suspect pursued by another country, effectively putting them on the world’s “most-wanted” list.

Human rights groups raised the alarm two years ago when Interpol’s general assembly approved Meng as president. Amnesty International criticized “China’s longstanding practice of trying to use Interpol to arrest dissidents and refugees abroad.”

Two prominent Kremlin critics warned Tuesday that electing Prokopchuk— who has ties to President Vladimir Putin— would have undermined the international law enforcement agency and politicized police cooperation across borders.

Russia accused critics of running a “campaign to discredit” Prokopchuk, calling him a respected professional.

The White House came out Tuesday against the election of Prokopchuk, with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying “the Russian government abuses Interpol’s processes to harass its political opponents.” He said the U.S. “strongly endorses” Kim.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington encourages all nations and organizations that are part of Interpol to choose a leader with credibility and integrity that reflects one of the world’s most critical law enforcement bodies. “We believe Mr. Kim will be just that,” he said.

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Democrats flip Utah House seat as McAdams tops Rep. Mia Love

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Democrats flip Utah House seat as McAdams tops Rep Mia Love

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Democrat Ben McAdams has flipped a U.S. House seat in deep-red Utah, defeating incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love by fewer than 700 votes in a race that took two weeks to settle.

McAdams defeated Love by a margin barely over what would have been needed to require a recount, according to final results posted Tuesday.

McAdams’ victory adds to the Democratic majority in a year when they’ve flipped more than three dozen Republican-held seats across the country to win control of the House of Representatives.

The race had been too close to call for The Associated Press until the final votes were tallied. State election officials will certify the results next Monday.

McAdams declared victory Monday night after a release of ballots gave him a margin his campaign believed was insurmountable.

“This race was about connecting with Utah,” he said. “This race was about who was best positioned to serve Utah and working to not get it caught up in a national, partisan election.”

Love, the first and only black female Republican in Congress, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She was seeking a third term.

Love finished about 20 votes short of being able to request a recount in a race where about 269,000 votes were cast.

This is the second time she has lost a bid for Congress by a razor thin margin. In her first run in 2012, Love lost to incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson by 768 votes. She went on to defeat Democrat Doug Owens in 2014 and again in 2016.

For McAdams, it’s a victory that validates his reputation as an emerging political force in Utah.

He pitched himself as a solid moderate, and not a typical Democrat, while calling Love a partisan who almost always votes with President Donald Trump. The strategy was aimed at independent voters who account for nearly four in 10 voters in the largely suburban district, and designed to overcome his built-in disadvantage in a district where registered Republicans in the district outnumber Democrats by nearly 3-to-1.

He is an attorney who graduated from Columbia Law School and practiced in New York before returning to his home state of Utah. He has been a political figure in the state for a decade. He was elected as one of the few Democrats in the GOP-dominated state Legislature in 2008 and successfully ran for the Salt Lake County mayor’s seat four years later.

He became known for working with the state’s Republican leaders on issues like homelessness, where he backed a narrow Medicaid expansion to cover treatment and once went undercover as a homeless person when the issue reached crisis mode downtown.

Though solidly conservative, Utah voters have long been uncomfortable with Trump’s brash style and his comments about women and immigrants. That anxiety is especially pronounced in the suburbs of blue-leaning Salt Lake City, and McAdams’ mayoral position gave him solid name recognition with voters.

McAdams said during the campaign he would not support California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and insisting he’d be able to work with the president. He has already signed a letter along with 15 other Democrats vowing to oppose Pelosi.

He sharply criticized Love’s support for the GOP-backed tax overhaul and said she had not been available enough to her constituents at town halls. Love pushed back hard, saying the tax overhaul has been good for people in Utah and defending her approach of meeting with voters in smaller groups, on the phone or online.

She highlighted the times she’s stood up to the president, like when Trump used an expletive to describe her parents’ home country of Haiti. She tried to separate herself from Trump on trade and immigration.

Trump didn’t appreciate her approach, calling her out by name in a news conference the morning after Election Day, where he also bashed other Republicans who he said lost because they didn’t fully embrace him.

Love seemed to struggle to find the right balance among conservative voters as she tried to keep her distance but stopped short of disparaging the president, said Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University.

“It became very difficult to satisfy everyone,” Cann said.

Voter turnout among registered voters was the highest for any midterm election in Utah since 1962 at about 74 percent, according to Justin Lee, the state elections director.

McAdams was an excellent candidate and also probably benefited from displeasure with Trump and the Republican party, Cann said.

“The winds were all at McAdams back,” Cann said.

____

Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.

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Trump provides written responses to Mueller questions

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Trump provides written responses to Mueller questions

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has provided the special counsel’s office with written answers to questions about his knowledge of Russian interference in the 2016 election, his lawyers said Tuesday, marking the first time Trump has directly cooperated with the investigation.

The step is a milestone in a months-long negotiation between Trump’s attorneys and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team over whether and when the president would sit for an interview. They represent the first time the president is known to have described to investigators his knowledge of key moments under scrutiny by prosecutors. If Mueller finds the answers satisfactory, the responses may also help stave off a potential subpoena fight over Trump’s testimony.

The compromise outcome, nearly a year in the making, offers some benefit to both sides. Trump avoids, at least for now, a potentially risky and unpredictable sit-down with prosecutors, while Mueller secures a set of on-the-record statements whose accuracy the president and his lawyers will be expected to stand by for the duration of the investigation.

“The president today answered written questions submitted by the special counsel’s office,” attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “The questions presented dealt with issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry. The president responded in writing.”

Sekulow said in a follow-up message that the legal team would not release copies of the questions and answers or discuss correspondence with the special counsel’s office.

Mueller’s team may well press for additional information.

Investigators months ago presented Trump’s legal team with dozens of questions they wanted to ask the president related to whether his campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to tip the 2016 election and whether he sought to criminally obstruct the Russia probe by actions including the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Mueller’s office agreed to accept written responses to questions about potential Russian collusion and tabled, for the moment, obstruction-related inquiries. They left open the possibility that they would follow up with additional questions on obstruction, though Trump’s lawyers — who had long resisted any face-to-face interview — had been especially adamant that the Constitution shielded him from having to answer any questions about actions he took as president.

Another of Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, said Tuesday that the lawyers continue to believe that “much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry.” He said Mueller’s office had received “unprecedented cooperation from the White House.”

“it is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” Giuliani said.

The precise questions and answers that Trump gave to Mueller weren’t immediately clear, though the president told reporters last week that he had prepared the responses himself.

Trump told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday that he was unlikely to answer questions about obstruction, saying, “I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably, we’re finished.”

Trump joins a list of recent presidents to be questioned as part of a criminal investigation.

In 2004, George W. Bush was interviewed by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s office during an investigation into the leaked identity of a CIA officer. In 1998, President Bill Clinton testified before a federal grand jury in independent counsel Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation.

“It’s very extraordinary if this were a regular case, but it’s not every day that you have an investigation that touches upon the White House,” said Solomon Wisenberg, a Washington lawyer who was part of Starr’s team and conducted the grand jury questioning of Clinton.

Mueller could theoretically still look to subpoena the president if he feels the answers are not satisfactory. But Justice Department leaders, including acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — who now oversees the investigation and has spoken pejoratively of it in the past — would have to sign off on such a move, and it’s far from clear that they would. It’s also not clear that Mueller’s team would prevail if a subpoena fight reaches the Supreme Court.

“Mueller certainly could have forced the issue and issued a subpoena, but I think he wants to present a record of having bent over backwards to be fair,” Wisenberg said.

The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether a president can be subpoenaed to testify in a criminal case. Clinton was subpoenaed to appear before the Whitewater grand jury, though investigators withdrew the subpoena once he agreed to appear voluntarily.

Other cases involving Presidents Richard Nixon and Clinton have presented similar issues for the justices that could be instructive now.

In 1974, for instance, the court ruled that Nixon could be ordered to turn over subpoenaed audio recordings, a decision that hastened his resignation from office. The court in 1998 said Clinton could be questioned under oath in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones.

___

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter.

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